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 TIME on politics Congressional Quarterly CNN/AllPolitics CNN/AllPolitics - Storypage, with TIME and Congressional Quarterly

Independent probes of Clinton Administration cost nearly $80 million

April 1, 1999
Web posted at: 11:32 a.m. EST (1632 GMT)

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, April 1) -- Independent Counsel Ken Starr's office spent $6.2 million during the six months last year when wrapping up its case against President Bill Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky matter. With that additional spending, Starr's probe is about to become the most expensive independent counsel inquiry ever.

According to figures released by the General Accounting Office (GAO) Wednesday, Starr's spending increased more than 50 percent over the critical period of April to September, during which Lewinsky was deposed multiple times and Starr was finishing his referral to Congress.

The new expenditures push the cost of the independent counsel's 4 1/2-year inquiry of the president and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton to $39.2 million. Starr was appointed to continue the investigation of the Clinton's Whitewater land deal. The probe was expanded in January 1998 to include the Lewinsky matter.

With that total, Starr is closing in on the record for spending by an independent counsel: The $47.4 million spent by Lawrence Walsh on the eight-year investigation of Reagan Administration officials involved in the Iran-contra affair.

Before Starr's appointment, a special counsel appointed by Attorney General Janet Reno had spent $6 million on a probe of Whitewater.

Besides Starr, five other independent counsels are currently conducting investigations. Four of those focus on the Clinton Administration. The combined costs of those four inquiries and the Starr probe now comes to $79.3 million.

The Independent Counsel Act does not require disclosures of specific expenditures. The GAO report said that the money spent by Starr's office generally went to salaries, travel, rent, supplies and private outside contractors, along with special services from the FBI, Internal Revenue Service and other agencies of the government.

A Starr spokesman said in response to the report: "The monumental effort required to conduct the investigation of Monica Lewinsky and others required an unusual commitment of resources."

However, the figures are likely to revive the debate over whether to renew the 21-year-old independent counsel statute when it expires June 30 or to let it die.

Critics of the statute have often cited the absence of financial constraints, which some contend leads to overzealous tactics being brought to bear on witnesses and defendants. Some former independent counsels have suggested time limits as a way to contain costs.

A four-year investigation of Henry Cisneros, former secretary of Housing and Urban Development, is scheduled to end in a trial of the former Clinton Administration official in July on charges related to statements he made about payments to a mistress.

Independent counsel David M. Barrett spent $1.4 million from April through September last year on the probe, which has cost $8.7 million so far.

A probe of former Agriculture secretary, Mike Espy, acquitted by a jury last year, cost $19.2 million.

Investigations of Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt and Labor Secretary Alexis Herman have cost less than $2 million, while a probe of the late commerce secretary Ronald Brown, a victim of a 1996 airplane crash, was terminated after expenditures of $3 million.


CQ: Senators say Independent Counsel Law should lapse if not radically changed (3-2-99)

Congress ponders independent counsel demise (2-23-99)

Price tag for Starr investigation: $40 million (2-1-99)

TIME: Starr's turn on the grill (11-16-98)


The Independent Counsel


Thursday, April 1, 1999

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